Time to Rethink Powerplays
Experimenting with Powerplays is needed to reduce cliché usage. Jarrod Potter on how these 10 overs could become more interesting if their placement was changed.
I’ll preface this article by saying by and large the inclusion of the batting powerplay has radically shifted the face of One Day Internationals positively. They are a great addition to the format forcing a bit more creativity and nuance from the fielding side to get around the restrictions and help speed up the batting tempo for viewers to enjoy. The times in which they are used still bears issue due to their commonly shared and repetitive introduction to the game. Administration regarding the batting powerplay and especially the bowling powerplay need to be addressed.
From September 2010, including matches with data I could find, the latest a bowling powerplay was left (besides instances where it wasn’t used at all) is in the 21st over by Australia vs Sri Lanka. This powerplay was left until later because of Upal Tharanga and Tillatkeratne Dilshan smashing the frontline Australian bowlers around, until Dilshan was out in the 20th over. The next longest example was New Zealand against Australia with the same reason as above; Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were belted the ball around and New Zealand only had 206 runs to defend. There is only one other instance (ENG v AUS, 13.1 overs in Watson’s 161* match) where the bowling powerplay was delayed beyond it’s absolute minimum starting point. 3 instances out of 112 points of data; 2.67% of the time. Not particularly relevant then to have the bowling powerplay remain the same.
The batting powerplay shows a more varied pattern of results, but are clustered relatively the same. There are many more instances where the batting powerplay isn’t used, such as Australia vs New Zealand in this World Cup where the Australians didn’t bother to use it, or in either of Kenya’s games at this World Cup where they were thrashed out of using them. Out of 96 instances of it’s use, the average time the batting powerplay is commenced is the start of the 41st over, with the upper maximum being used 16 times (commencing 46th over) and the lowest being at the start of the 16th over by New Zealand against Pakistan, with Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder looking to chase 124 in rapid time. Other notable uses of the batting powerplay fall into two categories; batsmen dominating the bowling attack or a complete capitulation of the batting order, requiring drastic use of the batting powerplay. The second earliest usage of the batting powerplay in the data range was Sri Lanka vs Australia in that famous comeback at the MCG. Angelo Mathews called for the batting powerplay in the 27th over as a last resort when the man at the other end was Lasith Malinga; we all know how it went from there and how the powerplay was crucial in seizing back some momentum. In the former category, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy used it aggressively against India in their 1st ODI on January 12th, where the two used it in the 28th over to maintain a high tempo. In the corresponding innings of that match, India were collapsing and Virat Kohli used it with his last viable batting partner Harbhajan Singh. The trend of smashing bowlers or utter collapse to dictate the use of the batting powerplay outside of the normal is pretty predictable. In total, the bating powerplay has been used 5 times before the 30th over, 22 times from 30 to 40 and the remaining 67 instances from 40 onwards.
This is far too predictable for widespread use. Wait until the 40th over or until the new ball is given to use the batting powerplay after receiving 15 overs of (effectively) mandatory field restrictions at the beginning of the innings. This still leaves that perceived lull period from Overs 16 – 39, which was there prior to the powerplay’s introduction. Games tend to meander through the lull, without many risks taken by the batting side whilst the 5th/6th bowlers trundle through the part time overs for the fielding side.
Instead of regular and standardised use of the powerplays from 11-16 and 40-45, why not administrate their use to speed up the middle overs and shake up the dynamic of the batting innings? If the two powerplays had to be used from overs 21 to 40, it rapidly changes the way the game is played. Sides will experiment with the batting lineup to best utilise these middle overs with their cannon hitters; bowling sides will get part time overs through from overs 11-20 and afterwards. The best bowlers will also have to be used in the midst of the innings rather than on the periphery of every one, leaving more overs at the end to be bowled by part timers allowing for even more scoring opportunity. Lineups might have to be altered at the expense of a part-timer just to get through these broken periods of field restriction.
Scoring still happesns rapidly at the end of the innings with or without the batting powerplay; the perception you need to save it until the dying overs defeats its best use is odd. More often than not, pinch-hitters at 7/8 like Yusuf Pathan, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi and Kieron Pollard are asked to do massive amounts with little time to get in and watch the ball. The batsmen above them should be just as capable of whalloping the ball as necessary.
This would probably lead to a break up in the powerplays; bowling powerplay likely at 21 and batting at 34 (new ball) or 36 (last applicable use of it), which is even better than a block of ten that it could turn into. Means the middle overs get two periods of interest rather than zero, leading up to the final 10 overs of crash-bang cricket anyway. This guarantees every team uses it as well, barring a complete disaster where they don’t reach 20 overs, in which case they shouldn’t be playing ODI cricket. In this time of T20 adventurism and clever shot selection, it shouldn’t be an issue to ask for 80 runs from the last 10 overs without the batting powerplay in any case. Look at the damage Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar have done in non-powerplay overs; batsmen aren’t restricted in these periods if they are talented enough.
It creates interest and excitement to experiment with the powerplays. Four years to trial them before the next World Cup is perfect as well. Look at how haphazardly the use of UDRS has been without an extensive trial for all teams made mandatory by the ICC, as it has failed to do so currently.
The intention of the powerplays is noble; get more spice and action into the middle of the game. Sadly all sides are exploiting the powerplays in ways that undermine their need. Creative administration will help make ODIs more exciting, generating more people through the turnstiles.